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© Chris Byrne 2010



Three and a half years after being demoted back to Step 5, City were now, at Step 3, at the highest level they had been for a decade, while the Nomads looked forward to another Hellenic season in Division One (West).
Justin Merritt kept faith with the bulk of the side that had won promotion so dramatically, though the signing of Andy Baird was a notable capture, and the team that walked out in front of a large crowd at the Spencer Stadium for a derby-start to the season was very similar to the team that had defeated Uxbridge in May. But there was no fairy-tale start to the season as Banbury beat ten-man City 1-0.
The home campaign started no better as old Isthmian rivals Hitchin Town put themselves three goals ahead before City got two goals late on to get within striking distance. The second home game finally saw City break their duck as they beat Bedford by the only goal of the game – an unstoppable volley from Baird.
A Bank-Holiday draw at Gloucester City, who would be promoted (to Conference North!) at the end of the season suggested the side was coming to terms with the higher standard of football, but two big defeats followed and confidence was unsteady as they went to Division 1 side Bracknell Town for their first FA Cup match. Bracknell duly won the tie 2-0, but City’s cup-run was restarted when the Berkshire side were expelled from the competition for a player registration error.

This piece of luck raised spirits and results took a turn for the better. Four points were taken from matches against Corby and Farnborough, the eventual champions and runners-up, before three victories in knock-out competitions.
Home wins against Tiverton and Chesham took City through to the Fourth Qualifying Round for the first time for almost a decade, and there was also a win, at home again, against Aylesbury United in the Trophy.
City’s biggest FA Cup crowd for some years saw a close game settled in favour of Eastbourne Borough from the Conference by a single goal early in the second half.
The following week saw City visit Kent to take on Dartford in the Trophy and battle through to a 3-3 draw, but despite taking the lead in the replay, the Isthmian Premier side, with the highly rated Cody McDonald scoring five goals in the two meetings, proved the stronger side and ran out 4-2 winners.
The results up to the end of the year were still variable, and only eight points were taken from the next eight matches.
There had been gradual changes in personnel as the season had progressed and the movement of striker Andy Baird into the back four, the arrival of ex-Republic of Ireland international Dave Savage, and the New Year seemed to mark a turning-point in the season. In the seventeen league matches before the New Year’s Day match with Banbury the side had mustered just 19 points, a points-per-match rate that would have seen them having to scrap to avoid relegation if it had continued, in the next seventeen games they grabbed 34 points.
Suddenly the side seemed to find its form in front of goal, helped by the arrival of a new crowd-favourite, Alex Fisher, from Oxford United, and through January and February they netted 22 league goals while only conceding five. This turn in fortune saw them climb steadily up the table to end the season in sixth place and just three points outside the play-off positions: eventually much more than just the ‘season of consolidation’ that might reasonably have been the aim of the Club back in August.
Nomads had a mixed start to their season, but gradually the side became more settled and there were some excellent results, most notably the 3-0 defeat of Hardwicke (who only lost twice in taking the championship), and only one loss in their final sixteen games.
With most teams having lengthy fixture backlogs Nomads finished their season a full nineteen days before Wootton Bassett Town, their nearest challengers for third place, played their last four games. After their long FA Vase run the Wiltshire side finally ran out of steam and lost two of those games leaving Nomads in the second promotion spot behind Malmesbury, as champions Hardwicke, because of ground-grading problems, would be unable to move up to the Premier Division.

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